tv Tavis Smiley PBS October 18, 2011 2:00pm-2:30pm PDT
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. in a conversation tonight with michael lewis, the writer of and books like "moneyball." he is out with a new book about the financial crisis in europe. it is called "boomerang: travels in the new third world."." alal s sckckd d anning is here. she is headlining the production of "other desert cities," which opens november 3. we are glad you joined us. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley.
with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pta -- pbs station. from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] >tavis: michael lewis is an author whose previous ? includes "moneyball" and "the big short." could to have you on this program. let me start with the news of
days ago. angela merkel and nicolas sarkozy have said that by the end of the month and they are going to put forward a plan to do something with the debt crisis in europe. >> i am a little skeptical. the government has been trying to put out this fire for a long time. they make these announcements and to calm the financial markets. so there are now runs on banks. they do not have a specific plan. any plan they put together is going to involve german people paying on the periphery of europe. the german people have made it clear they do not want to do that. you have this friction right now. the elected leaders say they want to further integrate europe, to create a united states of europe. the people do not want to go there. something has to give.
towasn't the euros supposed prevent problems like these? >> it was designed -- the subtext of the euro was we're going to yoke germany so cannot evade anybody. we are going to make -- it is going to be one big happy family. the problem is if you have a currency without a fiscal union , without a central taxing, and if the countries to pursue different policies, greece was not competitive, it becomes unsustainable. greece accumulates a lot of debt. at some hat -- at some point they cannot do it. if mississippi is less productive than indiana, people leave mississippi.
the dublin -- the federal government can subsidize in mississippi. we have a mechanism for dealing with this. when they designed the euro, what they thought was there is going to be a crisis but it will be 20 or 30 years from now. meanwhile we will become so in integrated there will have an incentive. i about to jump out of my seat, new picked the states. i am born in mississippi and grew up in indiana. [laughter] that is debatable. of all the states, you picked those. i love that. i'd did myow well research. what are we to make of what is happening in greece? how bad is the situation? >> very bad. part of the story is how whole
societies were left in the darker or the last decade. -- dark over the last decade. if we had a housing bauble. the greek government took the money and spent it on productively on more government. it hired people who were not doing anything. not only do they have an inefficient private sector, they have a culture of not paying taxes. you talk to a tax collector and the biggest way to get fired is to collect taxes. if you agree -- get aggressive. they have a society that is not functioning. the people do not see any reason to change. the greek people, even though they owe the money, the act of
trying to restructure the society -- they have riots on the streets. we have elites that what to bring countries close together but people are pulling europe apart. tavis: is austerity overrated? >> yes. the things they're doing is counterproductive. the imf and and other officials say what you need to do is a drop 100,000 employees and raise taxes in the private sector to try to cover these debts. the effect of that is a depressed economic activity. it is the opposite of what it greece needs. so they create a permanent repression environment. the thing that the outside authorities are doing -- to kick
in the money and we will make these people change. the greek people do not want to change. in medicine they're being asked to swallow is killing them. something has got to give. the way the officials are handling it is making pronouncements about having a solution without having the population on board. tavis: we did a tour about poverty in america. we went to 11 states, 18 cities, documented all of this travel, talking to people of all races about poverty, what it is doing to everyday people. i want to ask you, what he's austerity measures are going to do -- these austerity measures are going to do to the people.
in terms of creating new poor? >> it is going to be a growth industry, creating poor people to rea. mervyn king, the head of the bank of england has said we've experienced the worst financial crisis in the history of man. there are these periods of slow, and no growth. added to this, we have of ideology at the government level stood is preventing the government from doing the most it can to alleviate the problem. we're not doing that. as a result, unemployment is up and will stay up. when that happens, poverty goes up.
what you see happening is poverty being normalized in some way. you see people who thought of themselves as playing by the rules all the sudden poor. this is not a replication of the depression but it rhymes with depression. that is going to create political change. tavis: i do live in germany or france, what does any of this have to do with me? >> in the short-run, the stock market is going up and down every day because the u.s. market is afraid that if greece defaults on its debt, which sounds like it has nothing to do with you. they do not payback banks money that they owe. those banks then possibly fail. our banks have all kind of interaction with their banks.
so our banks either starts to fail or get its act in the stock market. then we have a reprisal of the financial crisis of 2008 or the financial system is paralyzed. i think what you are watching is act ii of the same financial crisis. act one was all of these bad states that accumulated. government is everywhere. now the question is, our governments not credible texts that creat? that creates a fragile environment. your ability to do what you do for a living is premised on a basic level of economic activity. it is going to decline and harder. tavis: before you became a writer and before your books and
were optioned as movies, you worked on wall street. your thoughts about these protests there growing every day in this country and around the world, this movement? >> i think it could be a big deal. the movement has not articulated what it wants but generally you can see what it wants and has justice on its side. we're gone through this a time where people who were paid the most, the release of the society -- elites in the society or destructive to society. the result was this financial crisis. they were saved by taxpayer dollars. all of these firms would have been out of business. so the taxpayer does that and in response restored the strength and health of the financial institutions. they insert their money into the
political process. it is outrageous. it is like a system of government protection for police -- elites. it seems so unfair. i think the outrage is at the root of this movement. the thing that creates momentum is the pain it has been caused among the young. people who are my age -- unemployment -- they are angry. they create the energy for change. tavis: as was the case during the vietnam protests, they were demonized by many in the larger society. now we see this new narrative being created where these protesters are starting to be demonized. they are anti-capitalist. it is class warfare.
what do you make of the mayor -- narrative that they are out of sorts? >> that is inevitable. you can see the movement could create a change in the people who would be changed to do not want it. it is a sign of a how the movement might be that there are people trying to craft a narrative that defeats it. tavis: we just scrap -- touched the surface of this new book, "boomerang: travels in the new third world." good to have you on the program. up next, stockard channing. stay with us. tavis: i am pleased to welcome stockard channing to this program. she now headlines the stage play "other desert cities." it opens in new york city on
november 3. here is a senior from "other desert cities -- scene from "other desert cities." >> if you violated the trust of the family, and a family that has been valued discretion and its good name over three decades, you would still be my daughter. the meaning of that would change. you needed us. a year of our lives, i thought of nothing but your well-being and your recovery. that is who i am. i know who i am. you would lose us. >> tavis: taviouch. it sounds like somebody is on
the precipice of doing something. >> i cannot explain all of the play because it is a mystery. there are five characters in the play and i would say four out of those of five have the secrets, they are not what the scene, including mom. tavis: how would you describe it without giving it away? >> it is a family living in palm springs. the father is a retired actor. they are friends of the reagans. my character is a retired screen -- screenwriter, right wing in a reagan republican way. they have three children. the eldest was implicated in a bombing of a recruiting center
who was a wild kid, a young man who left behind other siblings. the youngest is now a tv producer. he is in his late 20s's. the middle sister was a novelist, very successful and screwed up, especially after her older brother's debt. both children are more left wing and the parents. it is a family place. the daughter comes home on christmas eve to tell me she has written a memoir which will exorcise the ghost of her older brother. which brings up all of these issues of privacy. the most fascinating thing about the play as every member of the audience changes their mind about these characters and who they are.
no one is to they seem with the exception of the daughter who has had a nervous breakdown for five years. she represents the telling of everything. that is the issue, of the peace. tavis: that was nicely done without giving it away. i am glad you're here to do it. you do a lot of broadway. you like a place. what was it about this particular script to attracted you to this character? >> to be honest, i got the play about a year and a half ago and i wanted to have a reading. i did not think i could do it justice. the character is far away from what i am and who i believe in. it was not until we sat down and read it out loud that i realized that there is power and power
-- how moving it is. the complexity of my own character, i did not realize when i read on the page. it was only when it was performed in front of an audience and i saw what was happening in the audience that i made the decision. any time you sign onto something, you do not know what the end result is going to be. tavis: i assume you're talking about the political ideology. tell me why you think that makes it difficult to play as opposed to the challenge of doing something that is far away from who they are. >> it was a challenge. it was not until i sat down and opened my mouth and said those of first words out loud and played with the other actors
that it started to left, i realized it was not just me trying to do something that might be a challenge. it was going to work. you could feel it in the room. tavis: when you get this point in your career, are there things you are looking for that really do challenge you as an actor? things that you wanted to do? looking for that challenge? >> i do not think it is a question of a challenge as an actor. i was looking for something that is bogue -- a. big. if the production is not up to it and the actors and director, it is just a waste of time. deciding theseou
days whether or not your time is better still bent on the stage, on the big screen, how're you deciding what is not a waste of your time? >> anything that feels good. now we are going to come back and do it again on broadway with two different cast members. it is a challenge. even if you are on screen or in a play, it is always a group effort. it is not just of the actors, it is the editor, etc. you go into something saying out work tucson going to continue that. when they said they wanted to bring it to broadway, i said yes. i did not hesitate. it was so solid before. tavis: is there certain pressure you feel that -- or a certain
joy in taking something to broadway? >> sure. it is great to have another chance at something. i was sad about this particular production that we were a quintet. -- always said about this particular production that we were a quintet. when it is tight, it is like being an athlete and being in the zone. that is alluring. that gives you a couple of hours that are really good. the chance to open it to a broader audience is irresistible. tavis: "the west wing," still in reruns everywhere. as you look back, what to think about the work on that show? >> if i'd won frustration, i was not in it enough's.
. i will never forget -- every time lows on the set, i was knocked out by everyone around me. if you're going to be in a popular thing on television, it is great to be on one day you respect. all of the people i worked with were -- the caliber was just up there. tavis: since you open this door, i am going to go in. you mentioned the conversation about the character being different from you politically. what do you make of the state of things, the state of affairs in our country right now? i do not want to color it anymore than that. >> i think that there are works in progress. one has to be patient. that is my feeling. i am sort of, as a citizen i am
appalled by the lack of progress in our senate in the house of representatives. i hope that the american public understands that we have three levels of government. there is the executive, legislative, and the judicial. i wished the legislative would do their job. all i can do is vote. that is it. we have to take the broadest picture possible and understand -- that character of mine and not play, she says to her daughter, there are consequences to our actions. a founder of mind -- friend of mine, she said that is the best thing you can say to your child.
the point is, there are consequences and you have to go slow and steady through those consequences. everybody has to calm down and look at what is going on. if someone feels strongly that -- a tea party person or republican, they should vote to they want to. what pains me is people who are miffed because they did not get what they wanted in a situation that is so complicated. that kind of thinking disturbs me. that is not a positive action. that kind of attitude should be examined. tavis: we go from the theater to the real world and back to the theatre.
back to the plate. nicely done. the producers are happy about that. the play is called "other desert cities." stockard channing, good to have you on the program. that is our show for the night. thank you for watching and as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with antonio banderas in the critically acclaimed film the skin i live in. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy